Reviewed: March 30, 2008
Back in the 16-bit console era, there were far less recognizable video game characters. One system that seemed to boast more than its fair share was the Sega Genesis. Sega burst on to the scene with smash-hits like Sonic the Hedgehog and Golden Axe, and then continued on with that trend when they released the highly underrated Dreamcast in 1999. With games like Jet Set Radio and Space Channel 5, Sega was able to maintain a fan base for their characters.
After Sega stopped manufacturing systems, these classics began a re-birthing process on other consoles. Games like Sonic Mega Collection allowed new gamers to experience a taste of the past. Sega’s latest dip into the vault resulted in Sega Superstar Tennis where you take control of one of Sega’s biggest stars as you compete in several tennis based mini-games or standard tennis matches.
For those of us who have some familiarity with Nintendo’s consoles, Sega Superstar Tennis shouldn’t be a completely original idea. On the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube, Nintendo released Mario Tennis titles that featured characters from their Mario game series. Sega Superstar Tennis follows right in line with those releases with a few new twists.
The most important detail about this type of game is which characters are available for use. Well since about half of them are unlockable, I won’t give too many away. Of course, Sonic the Hedgehog is an obvious choice to wield a racket. He is accompanied by fellow his nemesis Dr. Eggman and his trusty sidekick Tails. The game also offers a few of Sega’s more cult classic faces as well. NiGHTS from his self-titled Sega Saturn debut is available along with Amigo from the Dreamcast oddity Samba de Amigo. There are plenty of others to choose from, but again I won’t spoil it for those of you who want to find out for yourself.
In order to unlock those other playable characters you take part in what is called Planet Superstars mode. There are several “levels” based individually off of a Sega title in which you must complete multiple challenges in order to unlock new characters and/or levels.
The challenges range from standard tennis matches to tournaments to tennis themed mini-games. The mini-games in all reality are the most entertaining part of the Planet Superstar mode. Simple tasks such as returning volleys or more difficult challenges like killing zombies stand in your way if you plan on revealing all of the hidden items in the game.
Single player mode mostly takes place inside the Planet Superstar mode, but exhibition matches can be played just for fun. Fortunately, Sega Superstar Tennis brings a simple control scheme to the table. It allows for any gamer to get a quick grasp on the game and makes so most players will be able to compete in no time at all.
Multiplayer is where this game, as with most tennis games, offers the most enjoyment in my opinion. With simplistic controls almost everyone is on an even playing field, so the games can become quite heated. Singles matches can be played head to head, or you can grab a friend and play doubles against the computer or two more friends.
The key to winning Sega Superstar Tennis is a simple as the press of one single button. With the quick tap of the L1 button on your Sixaxis controller at the proper time, your character will enter their Superstar State. In this “state” each character provides you with their own special ability in order to help secure a victory. The abilities include throwing bombs that temporarily stun your opponent or a shot that sends the ball zooming off in random directions to catch your competition off guard.
If you remember the graphics on the Sega Genesis or even the Dreamcast, you will certainly appreciate the smooth animations that Sega Superstar Tennis delivers on the PS3. The sharp 720p models of some of my personal favorites was quite a welcome sight.
Seeing what some of these classic titles could have offered visually given the current technology was quite an amazing improvement. From 16-bits to HD, it’s incredible to see the detail that can be added to these characters and backgrounds without losing any of the integrity of the original title.
The cartoonish characters and settings used in the game obviously limit what can be done visually, but Sega Superstar Tennis delivers an excellent looking title on the Playstation 3.
I talked about 16-bit graphics, but I think we can all remember the 16-bit sound that graced the Genesis as well. For those of us who can’t get those catchy tunes out of our heads still today, HAVE NO FEAR! Some of your favorite in-game music from the classics is back for your listening pleasure. As you play through the Planet Superstar mode you will unlock more songs that can be picked to listen to during match play.
The pure nostalgic value of these jingles makes you want to turn up the volume. With a slight adjustment in the options menu you can eliminate the slightly annoying “dinks” and “thwops” of the rackets and replace them with the soft melodies from Sega’s biggest hits.
The single player Planet Superstar mode does offer a fair amount of game play. There are several classic game-theme levels for you to complete in order to unlock all of the characters, courts, and music. Unfortunately, there is a repetitive factor to the game. I don’t feel that there is much more you can do with a tennis game than what the developers offer with Sega Superstar Tennis. The mini-games are challenging and entertaining, but you can really only play them so many times before they lose their luster.
Multiplayer with friends or online offers a small amount of extra value to the game, but unless you are either a big fan of tennis games or a major Sega fan-boy, I would have to say this one isn’t quite worth the $50 price tag.
If you are dying to play it, I would recommend trying to find a used copy or renting one if possible. I don’t think you will be completely disappointed in the game, but you may feel it doesn’t offer enough for the full retail price.
Sega Superstar Tennis hits one down the line with a solid smash shot, but I will have to say that depending on who the judge is it may be in or out. If you enjoy the Sega classics, you will get some enjoyment out of seeing some old characters revolutionized in new HD graphics, but if you are unfamiliar then you may not be interested.
Sega definitely doesn’t “double fault” with this release, but they don’t deliver an “ace” either. Tennis can only get you so far, and Sega does a solid job of taking it about as far as it can go in an arcade cutesy type of setting. Without going all-out tennis simulation like Top Spin or Virtua Tennis with character enhancement and product placement, Sega Superstar Tennis still finds a way to be enjoyable.